An idealistic young lawyer working for a Congressional subcommittee in the late 1950s discovers that TV quiz shows are being fixed. His investigation focuses on two contestants on the show "Twenty-One": Herbert Stempel, a brash working-class Jew from Queens, and Charles Van Doren, the patrician scion of one of America's leading literary families. Based on a true story. Written by
Tim Horrigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When Martin Scorsese's character is on the phone conspiring to get Herb Stemple (who is from Queens) off the show, he ends the phone call saying, "Queens isn't New York!" Martin Scorsese was born in Corona, Queens. See more »
Student At Book Party:
Professor Van Doren, I took your course at Columbia - "Hawthorne, Original Sin, and the American Experience". Well, as silly as it sounds, it changed my life.
Mark Van Doren:
Was it the Hawthorne or the sin?
See more »
Richard Goodwin became a speechwriter for the 1960 Kennedy campaign and then a member of the White House staff. After the assassination of Robert Kennedy, he retired from politics to become a writer. See more »
Although `Quiz Show' is entirely concerned with morality and the nature of moral choices, I can't think of a single moment when it isn't obvious whether or not a character is doing the right thing. There are no moral dilemmas whatever. And a good thing too - thorny ethical issues would only turn it into an episode of `Star Trek'. If you think a film needs to be confused about right and wrong in order to be interesting, watch `Quiz Show' and realise your error.
Here's most of the ethics in a nutshell: the star contestants of a popular quiz show are cheating, with the connivance of the producers, the sponsor, and the network. That they shouldn't be cheating is never in dispute. The interesting questions are: Why are they cheating? and, What is it like for them, and how do they maintain dignity, when they're found out? Of course, in an intelligent character study like this there are plenty of other questions. I won't ruin your pleasure by giving away any of the answers. The best scenes, probably, are the ones in which a character must admit to someone or some group of people that he has cheated. All these scenes are very good and each is handled in a different way. But they're just cherries in a rich fruitcake. `Quiz Show' is one of my personal favourites. It was nominated for Best Picture of 1994 - an unusually fertile year - although the award went instead to some big dumb propaganda piece.
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